My mother-in-law is trying to convince her husband to change his personal directive to allow her to let him die.

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He has moderate Alzheimers and is not fully capable of making that decision. He has suffered 3 attacks that required CPR to revive him. The main reason he would agree is financial and my husband has assured him we will be sure all his finances are taken care of. That made him agree to "staying alive" but his wife continues to play the needy wife, subtly convincing him she would be better off if she "let him go" next time. I am so upset and am not sure the best course to take here.


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I can totally relate to the predicament. Let me share with you my personal experience.

My father has had Alzheimer's for over 6 years now. He is at home with my mother and a full time live-in aide. Over the years he would decline and plateau, decline and plateau as is typical. He is now incommunicative, incontinent, and losing much of his ambulatory capability.

He had a heart attack 3 weeks ago. My sister, my mother, and I were all gathered 'round when the cardioligist came in and told us what was up and what the treatment options were.

Of course is was the usual panaoply; angioplasty to find the blockage, maybe a stent?, put him on Plavix, blah, blah, blah. We all looked at each incredulously....are you kidding me? we were all asking him with our eyes.

Our family has decided that dad has lived an amazing and long life. We believe that dad is suffering as he goes through the difficulty of managing each day. We do not believe that any invasive, resucitating, or extra-ordinary means should be taken to "save" or prolong his life unnaturally.

Did we bring him to the ER? Of course. Was he in CCU for 6 days. Sure. Is he in rehab now getting his conditioning back for dischage home? Absolutely. Will we keep giving him his meds, the best food on the planet, and the best care we can find. You bet! Will I visit him and love him and read to him and just sit and hold his hand? Naturally.

But for me and my family the decision to "Do Not Resuscitate" is a no brainer.
I insisted that my husband not be a DNR on his last visit to the hospital even after a nurse rushed up to me insisting I do that he had been having those spells twice a week for about a month but I had to see him for myself and get in touch with our adult children and grand-daughter and after talking to the doctor and knowing how critical he was at this time it still was not all about me the kids and grandchild had the right to see him and say there goodbys so he was on lifesupport meds until everyone was there and there was no chance of recovery - she does not have the right to make that decision when there are other family members involved. My mother was forced to sign a DNR when my sister was not in the room at her hospital -when my sister got there she saw a red dot over Mom's bed and asked what it was and was told she had signed a DNR my sister would not leave the hospital until it was clear she was not a DNR Mom is hard of hearing and did not understand what she was signing in my state we have a health care proxy that we take to the hospitals and doc offices and it becomes a part of their health record if they can not make a decision for whatever reason they name someone else to make the decision.
Ralph: I was so please to see your answer! Although my story is similar, there is more 'weight' when one of the resident experts post.

My mother's decline was rapid towards the end, and although I knew my mothers 'wishes' regarding "no artificial means" other family members felt otherwise. In the end, we all knew that there was little left that could be done to 'save' my mother and any rebound would be brief, and yes very expensive.

HARD2COPE: I don't know the relationship your MIL has with your FIL, but I can imagine that your FIL would not want to be a 'financial burden' to his wife or even your husband.

Although that is not the reason to 'let someone go' it is understandable and heartbreaking for us to imagine.

There can be many rebounds with Alzheimer's. Some will bring you joy and some will bring you to your knees praying for it to all end.

The decision we made regarding my mothers end of life wishes were like all the others. Even if we didn't agree, we honoured her wishes.

Sit down and talk to your MIL, find out what she is going through and what your FIL's real wishes were. There are many things that we will not understand but the pain of Alzheimer's has many common threads.

It is NOT easy to lose anyone that we love, and I pray that your friends and family will be there for you to support you.

If his finances will be taken care of no matter what, what's this life or death struggle really about? To be honest, I'm on the wife's side ... and I'll tell you why.

I had a female pitbull whom I adored. I took her everywhere, even to the Bronx River to watch her fish. Over time, she developed a chronic ear infection that wouldn't go away. Then a huge lump in one of her breasts, followed by uterine cancer. Even with all the treatments, she continued to go downhill. So I asked myself: should I prolong my misery and hers, or let her go? She kept crying at night while laying right beside me, and my heart shrank with the thought of having to euthanise her. ... I needed her love and she needed mine ... so I let her go.

She was more than a dog ... she was family. I got more love from her in 4 minutes than I got from my own mother in 4 years, but I had to make a painful choice and have to live with it for the rest of my life. Your mother-in-law is having to do the same. There's a method to her madness, so have a heart-to-heart talk and find out what her "malfunction" is.

Keep us posted.

-- ED

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